June 24, 2014
Unveiled: Part I
By Brittany Tedesco
I don’t like wearing dish gloves to do the dishes. Don’t like wearing shoes and sneakers—would much rather wear sandals. And I especially don’t like wearing hats. Itchy, confining, sweaty are just a few adjectives that come to my mind when I think about these items. I’ve described them to my husband as “hand prisons”, “foot prisons”, and “head prisons.”
So at a time like this, when the temperature is in the 90s, I think about Muslim women and the prison they endure. What must it be like wearing a burqa in a sweltering Middle Eastern country? How does one get used to being wrapped from head to toe in a prison of fabric with nothing more than a slit—sometimes a mesh hole—to look through?
“Why do they put up with this?” says the American woman who’s never set foot in an Islamic nation. I’m guessing the ratio of men to women in most of these countries is roughly 50-50…couldn’t they, like, protest or something? You know, take a cue from the 1960s women’s protests here in the states and burn their veils?
A few months ago a former Muslim woman from Egypt told us that veils were originally meant only for the wives of the prophet Muhammed…but the practice of veil-wearing gradually extended to all Muslim women. Today, women whose burqas cover their entire face (mesh hole to see out of) are considered the most devout.
Inside that suffocating blanket of fabric is a woman who longs to please her god—the only god she knows. And part of pleasing him is accepting what he says about her as a woman (and how she should be viewed and treated). She veils herself for reasons that extend beyond male oppression.
So what are women, and men, taught about the Islamic god?
A lot, I’m sure! But since I’m not a Muslim scholar, I’ve looked to three sources to answer this question. All are former Muslim women who grew up in Islamic countries, two became Christians, one became an atheist. All came to the same conclusion about their god: he’s hateful.
Isik Abla, who grew up in Turkey, prayed to Allah daily and longed to be a good Muslim. She told us she was willing to die for him, even though she knew she’d never make it to heaven. Egyptian former Muslim, Amani Mustafa, told us that, according to Muhammed, the majority of hell’s inhabitants are women. Wafa Sultan, Syrian author of A God Who Hates, gives us insight into why this might be: per Muhammed, “a woman is a defect.” This belief has been passed down through the generations and engraved on the hearts of Muslim women.
“There is no more deadly conviction on earth to a woman than the conviction that she is a defect, and no other belief can make it any less offensive. I heard this belief repeated from my first moment of awareness,” Sultan writes.
Isik was beaten nearly every day by her first husband. Not only did she accept this treatment…she sincerely thought she deserved it. The Quran teaches that getting beaten makes a woman a better Muslim.
Amani was the first woman of the three to walk away from Islam. After her mother became a Christian, Amani began reading the Bible in her teen years and stumbled upon that scandalous passage in the book of John.
“He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus tells a group of men ready to stone a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Not only did Jesus protect the woman from her accusers…He looked at and spoke directly to her throughout the incident. Far from viewing women as defective, He understood that, just like men, they long to know God and be known by Him.
After becoming a Christian, Amani would unfortunately get married to an oppressive Muslim man who forced her to teach the Islamic prayer to her son and daughter. The catalyst to escape from Egypt to America with her children came when her daughter, then 7 years old, looked up at her and said, “Mom, I don’t think the prayer is working. We’re going to hell.”
Sitting on the plane headed to the U.S. with her children by her side, Amani removed her veil.
Startled, her son told her she’d go to hell.
“Son,” she said. “We just left.”
To be continued...